Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion

INTRODUCING FR. FREDDIE'S GOSPEL REFLECTIONS

for Multi-purpose

1. These reflections are not written like an essay, but in six precise steps. Choose what you like.

2. They are not meant only for preaching homilies, but for a multi-purpose: for teaching, prayer (either personal or common), reflections and socio-pastoral guidance.

3. They can be used outside the liturgical celebrations also on any other occasions for preaching (by using the same text), private and common prayers, Bible Vigil, Adoration, Prayer Service, Gospel Sharing, conferences, talks, etc.

4. Only the Gospel text prescribed for the Sunday Liturgy in the Catholic Church is used for these reflections, and not the First and Second Readings. The latter are quoted only for reference. Those who want to include them, have to find their own applications.

5. These reflections are written from a pastoral and spiritual perspective, and not from academic or exegetical.

6. The preachers have an option to develop only the focus-statements given in Step 2 on their own into a full-fledged homily. If they want to make their homily shorter, they need not include all the points/thoughts written by the author; instead can select what they like, and (if they want) add their own stories/ anecdotes/ examples.

7. The title, “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion” indicates the author’s intention to highlight the life-sustaining or life-saving issues in our world and society in the midst of anti-life forces.

8. Though much of the material presented in these reflections is author's, no claim is made for the originality of all the thoughts and ideas. They are adopted from various authors.

9. Reproduction of these reflections in any form needs prior permission.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (C)


ORDINARY TIME OF YEAR C
First Sunday (Baptism of Our Lord) [Lk 3:15-16.21-22]
13 January 2019
Jesus’ Baptism: God’s Beloved Son Becoming His Servant
Readings: (1) Is 40:1-5.9-11 (2) Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
1.  Theme in brief
Our mission to serve
2.   Focus Statement
By baptism we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to commit ourselves to a mission of service to humanity and we become God’s beloved children by our faithfulness to this mission.
3.   Explanation of the text
Earlier Luke’s gospel had already spoken about crowds of people who came to John the Baptist from various walks of life to be baptized by him (3:7-14). In the present passage we notice those people wondering whether John might be the Messiah (3:15). Denying that claim, he made a distinction between him and the Messiah, his baptism and the Messiah’s baptism. He said that the One who was coming after him (Messiah) was “more powerful” than him (3:16). He confessed his subordination to the Messiah by saying that he was even unworthy to perform the role of a slave who untied the thongs or straps of his master’s sandals (3:16). He baptized only with water (3:16) – a ritual to signify ‘repentance’ and ‘forgiveness of sins’ (3:3) – but the more ‘Powerful One’ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (3:16) – an obvious reference to the descent of the Spirit in the form of tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost symbolizing his superior cleansing and purifying power (Acts 2:3).
In modern terms, Jesus' baptism could be taken as a sort of ‘inauguration ceremony’ of his public ministry. His Baptism was a turning point in his life, a moment of final decision to launch his public ministry of service to humanity. But before he could make a ‘final commitment’ to the mission entrusted to him by his Father, he wanted an assurance whether he had taken the right step. The voice of the Father telling him, “You are my beloved Son, I am well pleased with you” (3:22) was an assurance to him that he had taken the right decision. An inner voice must have urged or propelled him very powerfully to commit himself firmly to God’s will. Jesus’ decision was endorsed by the opening of heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the voice of approval from the Father (3:21-22). Jesus set out for his public ministry of service with the anointing and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Unlike other evangelists, Luke says that heaven opened not when Jesus was receiving baptism, but when he was praying after his baptism (3:21). Luke frequently portrays Jesus at prayer, especially when he took important decisions or at various turning points in his life (5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 11:1; etc.) He wants to give us the message that Jesus' ministry was based on and powered by prayer. The opening of heaven symbolizes either the intervention of God or receiving an answer from God for his prayer. Probably Luke wanted to tell believers that God anointed Jesus with the power of the Hoy Spirit in answer to his prayer, and his public ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirit. 
A voice coming from heaven (surely the voice of the Father), “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” (3:22) is composed of two OT texts. The first part is from Psalm 2:7 – “You are my son; today I have begotten you.” This was generally accepted as a description of the Messianic King considered as God’s Son. The second part is from Isaiah 42:1 – “Here is my servant… my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” God’s “chosen servant” is also called God’s Suffering Servant because of the suffering he would undergo. Luke substitutes the words “Chosen Servant” with “Beloved Son,” and identifies him with the Son of God, whose mission of service will involve suffering and sacrifice. God is well pleased with him precisely because of his willingness to do his will or to be faithful to his role as servant of humanity to the extent of suffering crucifixion. The Spirit of God descending like a dove on Jesus can mean either the creative spirit which hovered over the waters when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1-2), or the One who brings message of new life like the dove at Noah’s time that brought a freshly plucked (green) olive leaf when the mighty flood that drowned the whole earth receded after fourty days and nights (Gen 8:11).
4.   Application to life 
Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Though sinless, by accepting baptism, Jesus shows his solidarity with sinful humanity. In baptism he takes our place so that we could take his place and become another Christ after our baptism. Thus, his baptism serves as a model for our baptism. For us too, our baptism is like a new birth through which we begin not only a new life of grace but also a commission to continue Christ’s mission of service. Today’s feast invites us to make our baptism alive and dynamic, and not a ritual which took place long ago, perhaps for most of us when we were babies. It invites us not to take it for granted and become deeply conscious of its meaning and implication.
Though we are baptized only once in our life-time, we are called to live by our baptismal promises and mission throughout our life. We need to strive daily to be conformed to the image of Christ and live up to our baptismal commitment till the end of our life. First of all, this feast draws our attention to our own baptismal consecration and vocation to live a life of holiness. To be consecrated means to be set apart, or to be separated, for use by the Lord. It means to belong totally to God (Ex 13:2) and not to the world. It also means offering of our whole being to God and separating ourselves from anything that may contaminate or defile our relationship with a holy God. Ultimately, it connotes our call to a life of sanctification or holiness, to be holy as God is holy. We need to renew our baptismal consecration and holiness by deciding daily to separate ourselves from the worldly contamination. We have to consciously practice it by making a decision of our mind everyday to offer all our works, relationships, activities, concerns and in fact our whole life as an offering to God. St. Paul tells us: “Do not to be conformed [to the pattern of] this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Rom 12:2). We need to ask ourselves whether we live a life, which is different from the ways of the world, or whether we compromise with the values and evil ways of the world.
Our daily consecration leads us to acquire this sort of attitudes: Whatever we have is his gift to us, and whatever we give is our gift to him. Therefore, we lovingly and willingly return to him whatever he has given us, without any reserve. Jesus prayed that his disciples may be consecrated (sanctified or dedicated) in the truth of God (Jn 17:17), because though they are in the world, they do not belong to the world (Jn 17:11,1416). Though we live in the world, in order to live a life worthy of our call, we should not agree with, imitate or copy all the fashions and fads of the world, nor blindly ape all its values. That is why we make promises to God to renounce the “pomp” of Satan during our baptism, such as power-mongering, corrupt practices, consumerism, name and fame, gaining popularity without practicing any principles in personal conduct, etc.
Secondly, by baptism like Christ, we too are consecrated for a life of service. We too become God’s beloved sons and daughters who are entrusted with a mission of service. Hence, this feast invites us to show forth that we are really God’s beloved children by remaining faithful to our baptismal mission. We must be always attuned to the inner voice of the Spirit that moves us to become more and more sensitive to needs of the modern world and look for newer and newer forms of service. We have to ask ourselves whether God is well pleased now with the type and quality of the service that we render in our families, communities and workplaces. We should check and see, as the world of technology advances year by year and the quality of our goods, machinery and gadgets improves a lot, whether the quality of our service and commitment to our mission increases. What we notice is more and more people not finding time for any community service in spite of saving a lot of time due to the use of modern means of communication and transport (like mobile phones and vehicles).
What is service then? It mainly implies self–giving or giving one’s life for the welfare of others. In other words, it implies a sharing of time, talents, goods, knowledge, speech, and energies for the good of others. Jesus tells us that his mission is not to be served but to serve to the point of giving (= sacrificing) his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10: 45). He calls his sacrifice on the cross out of service for humankind a ‘baptism’ of blood (Mk 10:38). For him, service was a sacrificial service which involves sometimes suffering or pain for ourselves. Based on today’s first reading and the interpretation of “Chosen Servant” given by Luke, ours is a suffering service. If our services do not go beyond the compulsive services we have to render for our livelihood and self-maintenance, we can hardly be his disciples. One of the reasons why our discipleship remains to the minimal level could be our unwillingness to make sacrifices or take pain for common good or community service. Even in families, one of the most important services parents, especially fathers, should render is sacrificing their time for guiding and directing their path in the paths of God. Further, in our families we have to examine ourselves whether we expect others to serve us at our beck and call, or equally contribute to the total welfare of the family. Outside our homes, we have to examine and see whether we try to escape from occasions to render service to the society if there is no monitory or prestige reward.
To whom should service be rendered? When we read the gospels, we come to know, though service has to be rendered to all, it has to be preferably rendered to the needy, the rejected, the suffering, the sick, the underprivileged, the defenceless and outcasts and sinners, the least of our brethren, etc. Though jobs are called “service’’ in the secular world, most people consider their jobs as a means only for earning money, not for the service of humanity or society or for nation building. Today’s feast challenges those of us (including me) who have some authority in the Church and society to see whether we use it for domination, lording it over, exploitation and profit-making, or for guiding, serving, correcting, reconciling and for public good. It also challenges us to see whether we waste a high portion of free time in gossiping, loitering around, playing cards, surfing internet for fun and watching TV for long hours, instead of using a part of it for service of society. Let us implore the Creator Spirit who descended on Jesus at his baptism and on us too at our Baptism and Confirmation to empower us so that we become creative in our service and radiate the newness/ freshness of life prefigured by Noah’s dove at the time of the Great Flood. 
5.   Response to God's Word
Do we live up to our baptismal consecration by living a life different from the ways of the world and refusing to compromise with the evil ways of the world? Is our baptism meant only to get our name registered in the parish records and get a social identity? Do we consider it as a call to a life of service to God and humanity? What does our baptism and its promises (to renounce Satan and its pomp and to believe in God) mean to us today? Now, is God well pleased with the way we use or share our time, talents, knowledge and energy? Do we render service only where there are personal benefits such as eating and drinking, honour, prestige, power, money and profit, or do we also occasionally render service where there are no such benefits?
6.   A prayer
Heavenly Father, as we recall to mind your Son’s baptism at Jordan, you make us conscious of the mission of service to humanity that you have entrusted us at our baptism. When we received it we became both your beloved children and chosen servants to bring good news to the poor and the needy. You anointed us both at baptism and confirmation with the power of the Holy Spirit to continue your mission. We thank you for this great privilege and responsibility. Grant that we may remain faithful to our baptismal vocation and mission to be creative and fruitful in service throughout our life. Amen.



Friday, 4 January 2019

Epiphany of the Lord (C)


Epiphany of the Lord [Mt 2:1-12]
06 January 2019
The Visit of the Wise Men from the East
Readings: (1) Is 60:1-6 (2) Eph 3:2-3.5-6
1. Theme in brief
     Seeking and finding the Lord
2,  Focus Statement
Christian life is an on-going process of searching for and finding the Lord under divine guidance, and after finding him offering ourselves to him.
3.  Explanation of the text
Today’s gospel begins by stating that in the time of king Herod another King of the Jews was born. At that time “wise men from the East” (2:1), popularly and traditionally known to us as “three kings”, went in search of the newborn King of the Jews, guided by a star (2:1-2). This gospel text does not call them ‘kings,’ but wise men or magi (astrologers). Their purpose of undertaking this strenuous ‘search’ was to pay the new born King of the Jews their “homage” (2:2). Herod was shaken and frightened (2:3). He suspected a dangerous plot against him by a rival king. Hence he asked the wise men to search diligently for the child and report to him that child’s whereabouts, so that he could kill him, and not ‘adore’ him, as he cunningly said (2:8).
The magi who came from the East represent the gentile world. Their searching and finding Jesus implies that he is born not only for the chosen people (Jews), but for all. As he is the universal Saviour, now the gentiles also can search for him in faith and find him. The rising star which these astrologers observed (2:2) can mean two things: (1) The newborn King of the Jews (Jesus) is the ‘Star’ that has risen, as it is written in the Book of Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2), or (2) the light of divine guidance or revelation that led or guided them to the Divine Child.
Three issues clearly stand out in this text: (1) fear of the worldly ruler (Herod) that he may lose his power to a rival king; (2) refusal of the religious leaders (chief priests and scribes) of Israel to accept the Messiah though they had the Scriptures with them; and (3) the joyous welcome and adoration given by the gentile representatives who recognise his light. Here Matthew contrasts the rejection of Jesus by the chosen people with the faith or fidelity of the gentile wise men. Their sole intention to pay him ‘homage’ is mentioned three times in this text (2:2, 8, 11), which means prostrating before him or adoring him.
The gentile wise men were not in possession of divine revelation of the Scriptures, as the Jews were. Yet, they seemed to have received revelation through natural science (that is, astrology that studies the movements of the stars). But they had to confirm it through the Scriptures. Hence, the star, instead of leading them directly to Bethlehem made a detour via Jerusalem. The pundits of Jerusalem confirm through their Scriptures that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (2:4-5). What a contrast: those who were in possession of the Scriptures and were specially chosen by God to receive the Messiah refuse to believe in him or worship him; but the gentile representatives who were not privileged to be chosen by God in the beginning become models of simple faith, adoration and inner joy (2:10).
The wise men opened their treasure chests and offered Jesus the gifts of gold (owned mostly by kings) to symbolise that he was the spiritual King; frankincense (or incense used by priests during worship) to symbolize that he was the High Priest or Mediator between God and men, and myrrh (a perfume used to anoint corpses) to indicate that he was born to die for his people.
4.  Application to life
Life is a search. All humans search for happiness. They want to be relieved from all obstacles to happiness such as pain of loneliness, frustration, despair, failure and harsh realities of life. Some seek temporary or momentary relief from these problems by taking drugs, alcoholic drinks and indulging in sexual pleasures. But where is lasting happiness? We need to gain access to the reservoir or the source of true happiness. A Christian disciple believes that Jesus is this source. Therefore, he/she believes that lasting happiness can be found by seeking Jesus and finding him, or by seeking after his values such as truth, peace, salvation…. Hence, Christian life is an on-going process of searching for and finding Jesus who continually takes birth today in newer and newer forms/ ways in our world or life-situations.
This continual birth of Christ is also called his ‘Epiphany’ (manifestation), that is, revelation of his light. He reveals (manifests) himself to us in various ways and invites us to respond to his love like the wise men. The rising star which the wise men observed symbolises three different things: first, in faith we believe that Jesus himself is the greatest Star or light that has risen amidst the darkness of this world, as prophet Isaiah states (Is 9:2). Therefore, like the magi we have to always ask in our imagination as well as in all situations, “Where is the newborn King? Where and how can I find him and experience true peace and happiness which come from him?” Like the pundits of Jerusalem we sometimes refuse to accept the light of Christ and prefer to remain in darkness of sin or ungodly ways.
Secondly, in our search for the greatest Star (Lord Jesus), there are other ‘stars’ that guide or lead us in this pursuit. These ‘stars’ of divine guidance come to us in various ways – through the grace of God, an enlightenment we receive from God or his Spirit, a passage of Scripture by which God himself speaks to us, guidance of our parents/ teachers/ counsellors/ friends, or through prayer and sacraments. Strangely, these ‘stars’ could be even the poor people with whom Jesus identifies himself (cf. Mt 25:35-40), or various events of our personal and world history through which the Lord manifests himself to us. These ‘stars’ become the media through which we can find the Lord.
Let us consider some of the problems of the world through which God speaks to us: global warming and climate change tell us that we must care for the Mother Earth and instead of overexploiting her resources we must preserve/conserve them; terrorists/ criminals tell us that our society must own up its responsibility towards them because it is directly or indirectly produces such people by committing acts of injustice/ exploitation/ oppression against such people or against their community; addicts tell us that their addiction does not come in bottles or drug packets, but is often a result of the emotional wounds inflicted on them and damaged personalities created in them by their families and society; civil wars and riots tell us that the governments and administration should examine whether they are the result of their wrong/selfish policies or dereliction of their duties; etc.
Our discovery of the Lord should lead us to a faith-response like the wise men – of wonder, joy, adoration and offering of ourselves (or whatever we have) to him. Today’s text invites us to adore him as the King of our hearts (symbolised by gold offered by the magi), as the High Priest who mediates between God and us (symbolised by frankincense offered by them), and as the Sacrificial Victim who is born in order to offer his life in sacrificial death for us (symbolised by myrrh). Along with these gifts we offer our whole life in an act of total surrender. We pay our homage to him as the only Ruler of our lives, as the High Priest who continually intercedes for us with the Father and as the One who enables us to join our daily sacrifices with his supreme sacrifice on the cross.
Thirdly, since Jesus is the universal Saviour, we have to become like stars to lead others to him. Today the magi represent all the people of other faiths. We are called to be both receptors and reflectors of Christ’s light. We become receptors when we receive divine enlightenment through prayer and meditation on the Word of God, and reflectors when we in turn become shining lights to others through our Christian witness. The light of Christ shines before those who do not know him through our life and witness. Our conduct either shines before them like a star or misleads them. Having received the light of faith, if we do not shed that light before those who do not have it, or if we give counter-witness (bad example), we become like the pundits of Jerusalem. Like them we have the Scriptures but are not led by its light.
Therefore, Epiphany is a great missionary feast, which invites us to share our faith with others in word and deeds (which give witness to Christ). Then we too become “a light of revelation to the gentiles” (Lk 2:32), as Christ himself was. Suppose, the personal and striking witness given by Pope Francis about simplicity among the Church leaders and her option for the poor, is not imitated by the rest of the Church and her leaders, how can the world experience a new ‘epiphany’ of the Lord?
But beware! There are ‘Herods’ (forces and groups) even today in various parts of the world, who are opposed to Christ’s values and plot to destroy them by threatening and intimidating those who stand for those values. For example, the activities of missionaries/ social activists/ voluntary agencies among the underprivileged people in the fields of education, social justice and human rights, pose a threat to those who want to exploit or subjugate them. There are people or groups with vested interests who conspire against service of the Church to the poor, the underprivileged and the marginalized as Herod did. They fear that they may lose their power or hold over the poor and downtrodden people. There is a temptation haunting missionaries and social activists whether to withdraw their services to the poor out of fear. Amidst this fear there is a question whether to remain faithful witnesses of Christ and become lights of revelation of his love, or allow the poor and the marginalized to remain in darkness. If we allow it how can we say: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2)? Most probably they will continue to remain in darkness. 
5.  Response to God's Word
We praise God for having revealed his Son to us and pray to him that we may manifest him to those who do not know him. Do we give witness to Christ’s values among people of other faiths in our neighbourhood and workplaces by our conduct, or give them bad example? Do we consider that searching for Christ or looking for him in prayer, sacraments, Scriptures and all situations or events is an essential aspect of Christian faith? If so, how committed are we to these faith-practices? Are we like Herod pretending to pay homage to Christ in the church or in traditional prayers, but are involved in killing/opposing/negating his values?
6.  A prayer
Lord Jesus, you are the rising Star that dispels our darkness. We adore you as the King of our hearts and offer our lives to your guiding light. Grant that we may never tire of seeking you in all situations and events. Grant that our search for you result in finding you or recognising your presence everywhere. We repent for the times we gave bad example to those who do not know you by negating your gospel-values.  Like the wise men, who took a different route to return home, give us the grace and enlightenment to take a new direction in our lives so that we become better witnesses of your love.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Motherhood of Mary and New Year 2019


Mary, Mother of God and New Year [Lk 2:16-21]
01 January 2019
The Message of the Shepherds and Mary’s Faith-Response
Readings: (1) Num 6:22-27 (2) Gal 4:4-7
1.  Theme in brief
Treasuring the Word in our hearts and pondering it
2.  Focus Statement
Mother Church is constantly called to Imitate the following features of Mary’s Motherhood: receiving the Word of God in faith, treasuring it in her heart and pondering over its significance.
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel text Mary is presented as a model for reflection and introspection into our life on the basis of God’s Word. When the shepherds heard from the angel the good news of the birth of a Saviour for all people (2:10), they hurried up to Bethlehem to “see this ‘thing’ that has taken place” (2:15). [This word ‘thing’ can also mean an event or word when it is translated from the biblical languages.] So we can understand this passage to mean that the shepherds went to Bethlehem to make known (or proclaim) the words which the Lord had made known (or revealed) to them (2:15).
When they reached, they found a mother, a father and a child lying in the manger (2:16). And the mother whom they found is described as the one who treasured all their words and pondered them in her heart (2:19). This statement highlights an important aspect of Mary’s motherhood: listening to God’s Word reflectively, keeping it as a precious treasure in her heart and pondering (literally chewing over) its meaning and relevance or significance for her (our) life. The shepherds noticed God’s boundless love revealed through the image of an ordinary family, which is guided by the faith-reflections of a mother. Luke repeats this important trait of Mother Mary later in 2:51 also, where he says that Mary treasured the words of Jesus regarding his mission to be in his Father’s house. As she (as well as Joseph) did not understand those words immediately (2:50), she pondered or deeply reflected over their meaning.
In Luke’s gospel, the shepherds’ going to Bethlehem in haste (2:16) is very much related to Mary’s setting out in haste to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth (1:39) in the sixth month of her pregnancy (1:36). Whereas the haste with which shepherds hurried to Bethlehem implies their eagerness to hear, see and share with others or proclaim the good news of salvation, Mary’s haste refers to her eagerness to serve her relative Elizabeth during her pregnancy. We can imagine how Mary’s faith and reflections on God’s Word overflow into action (that is, service rendered or charity done to the needy).
Further, later in Luke’s gospel we see him presenting Mary as the prototype of all those who become mothers and brothers/sisters of Jesus by hearing the Word of God and doing it, that is,  living by it (Lk 8:19-21). She also becomes the prototype of all those who become blessed because of their hearing and obeying the Word of God (Lk 11:27-28). Hence the title “Blessed Virgin Mother” suits her very well.
4.  Application to life 
We begin a New Year on the feast day of the Motherhood of Mary. It is god to ask how New Year is related to this feast? What is the significance of the connection between Motherhood of Mary and New Year? It is said that the name of the first month of the year, "January" comes from the pagan god of Rome called Janus.  He was a double-faced god depicted in opposite directions, one face looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This idea fits very well with the features of Mary’s Motherhood. Mary is a model of reflection and introspection on how we lived the past year and how we are going to live the New Year. New Year is a new stage in our life to examine the past and look forward to the future. In spite of some failure of the past and anxieties of the unknown future, we are called to take forward to future with hope.

 New Year is the best opportunity to see whether we have done our dream to our satisfaction. If not, as Abdul Kalam says, we need to activate our inner energy to translate our vision into better action in the New Year. As we read newspapers and watch TV, we come to know about some burning problems of the world such as terrorism, genocide, ethnic fights or riots, hunger or poverty, communal (religion-based) riots, religious fundamentalism, economic recession, environmental degradation, etc. It is right to examine whether we did anything to address or alleviate any of these problems at least in a small way by a small gesture of concern/ opinion/ objection/ opposition/ disapproval/ service in the past year. Do we dream a little bigger dream for this year? Following Mary’s example, we need to introspect or ponder and see whether we are living our lives by chance or by personal choice. What were the wrong choices we made in the last year; and how are we going to make better choices in this year? On the New Year day, our Heavenly Mother invites us to make a review of life and recall to our mind the steps we need to take in order to live a meaningful and purpose-driven life.

Mary is our best guide in this sort of soul-searching questions. She becomes a model believer for her efforts to discover the meaning of life-events in the light of faith. She discovered God’s plans for her by treasuring God’s Word in her heart and pondering over its meaning and relevance. In the light of God’s Word, she reflected deeply on all the events of her life in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life. She is like those believers who after hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and “bear fruit with patient endurance” (Lk 8:15), as Jesus has explained in the Parable of the Sower. Such believers are like the good soil that produces a hundredfold fruit (Lk 8:15). Like Mother Mary, we too are called to become ‘spiritual mothers’ to others by “doing” God’s Word. Doing God’s Word means living by it. To live by it, we need to receive it in faith and ponder over its implications for our situation. The Church is called the Mother Church. She is called to become what she really is. She truly becomes a spiritual mother by hearing the Word of God and doing it, just like Mother Mary. The feast of Motherhood of Mary is closely related to the role of the Church (that is, the whole of Christian community) as a mother. By hearing and doing the Word of God, all of us become mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Jesus, as told by Jesus in Lk 8:21.

Luke mentions Mary’s role of treasuring things in her heart twice in his gospel (cf. the explanation above) to show that she discovered God’s will both in his Word and in her life’s events. She came to know about divine revelation through the message (words) of the shepherds, and God’s will in the event of finding Jesus in the Temple. She understood the full implications of this event only after the resurrection and Pentecost. She had to go on discovering God’s ways gradually till the end of her life. God speaks to us today also through divine revelation (Word of God and its interpretation) as well as through the personal experiences gained through life’s events. But we need to be attuned to what God says as Mary was. Suppose we are attuned to only what the mass media or misguiding companions say, how can we know what God wants to tell us?
These reflections are sent also through a mobile-phone application called ‘WhatsApp.’ Hence, it is a wonderful tool to propagate the Good News and spiritual values. But we are warned to use it with discipline and prudence. More than 80% of the health tips (often confusing, contradicting each other and misleading us), political and business matters that are blindly forwarded by many, including some priests and religious, in WhatsApp, are a bluff or fake and unsubstantiated. Suppose we are attuned only to this bluff and baseless propaganda, we will be fully misguided and may get even addicted to it. Then we shall lose our life’s purpose. To counter the evil influence of this media we must choose what we see and read in WhatsApp or any other mass media and seek guidance of the Word of God. Many spend so much time to read all fake ad bluff messages in WhatsApp and go on forwarding them without any verification and bypass or delete good life-guiding and animating spiritual messages. This is not what Mother Mary did.
Further, our contemplation on the Word of God and spiritual reflections should overflow in joyful service like Mary’s going out “with haste” to minister to her needy relative Elizabeth (1:39). Let us begin this year with a resolve to be more sensitive to the needs of the needy and the suffering humanity like Mary, and be more eager to go out to joyfully serve such people. Do our religious practices and devotion to Mother Mary prompt or motivate us to go out of ourselves in serving the needy and the underprivileged?
5.  Response to God's Word
Like Mother Mary, ponder over these questions as you begin a New Year: (1) In my personal conduct what will be my guiding principle in this new year? (2) In my family/ social relationships/ community life what will be my guiding principle? (3) In my workplace what will be my guiding principle? Could I have done better in the past year? How did I spend my time? What good did I do and what did I fail to do? Can I pick up one or two wider issues/ problems/ concerns/ needs of people of my area or of my country and think of what I like to say or do about it in my own little way, at least by a small gesture?? For whom? How? What is my bigger dream for this year? How can I discover God’s plan for my family and its future with Mary’s guidance? Please entrust this New Year, your and your family’s future, the future of the Church, the future of humanity, the future of the entire universe to our Heavenly Mother’s care.
6.  A prayer
Thank you God for giving us Mary as our best guide in some soul-searching questions we need to address as we begin a new year. Grant that like her we may hear your Word in faith, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and produce a hundredfold fruit. Like her, may we become model believers discovering your plans for us by treasuring your Word in our hearts and pondering over its meaning and relevance for our lives. Give us the grace to “do” or live God’s Word by our witness. By our ardent prayer and joyful service, may we become mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us that we may be faithful to our personal vision and mission in this year. Amen.